In #AlohaBeijing, ‘Aloha’ can mean goodbye

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So if you haven’t already noticed from my Instagram feed, I’m not in Beijing.

In fact, I didn’t even get near the country.

Turns out, the travel agent who told me I didn’t need a visa because I wouldn’t be in China for 72 hours was wrong.

Here’s how it went down:

I went to the travel agent’s office with just enough time to get a visa to China, which is required in most cases. He told me as long as I wouldn’t be in the country for more than 72 hours, I didn’t need one. He had clients who had done it before, so I shouldn’t worry.

I trusted his advice. I mean, who was I to go against a guy who makes his living scheduling vacations and business trips?

Last night I picked up Melissa Chang and got to the airport with about an hour until boarding. As I was checking into the flight, the Hawaiian Airlines worker asked for my visa. I told her I didn’t have one.

After several huddles among employees, the woman came back and said I wasn’t going to be allowed on the plane. It was company policy that everyone had to have a visa. So I was out of luck. (She was very apologetic about it, though.)

I’ve gotten a lot of flack online — primarily on Facebook — about what I did. I even got called stupid, which was bit overly harsh. Look, I went with information I thought was valid. Did I know you needed a visa to enter China? Yes. Did I know about the policy allowing foreigners into the country for less than 72 hours? Yes. But did I know about the minor stipulations — like you had to be transiting through China, yada yada — that an expert like a travel agent would know? Absolutely not.

It’s not like I was trying to circumvent getting a visa — or trying to get out of this trip to Beijing, as was also implied. It was a simple but disastrous mistake — and one that I will likely regret for awhile.

So that’s what happened.

I went to Chinatown this morning and grabbed a box of baked manapua from Royal Kitchen. I took it to my surfing buddies, who were meeting for breakfast, and told them this was their omiyage from China.

Because that’s as close as I was going to get!

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22 Responses to “In #AlohaBeijing, ‘Aloha’ can mean goodbye”

  1. NEO April 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Cat, go/no go, no matter… everything is life is a learning experience. You are NOT and I repeat NOT stupid… you wouldn’t have gotten this far in life if you were… There will be more opportunities, and with them, more and more learning experiences. You’re pretty awesome, if I may say so myself… and… no doubt, your not being in Beijing is entirely Beijing’s loss… keep smiling and as we say in the Naval side of things… “Press On Regardless”

  2. M April 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Hello Cat,

    Everything happens for a reason. Beijing will aways be there.

  3. Annoddah Dave April 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    CAT: I guess we won’t see any bathroom pix…bummers! Tell us the name of the agent so we don’t go to him for any travel plans to Timbuktu!!

  4. DIO April 16, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    You are not the stupid one. The travel agent is the stupid one.

  5. HiCDS Chairman April 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Cat, don’t worry you’re not the stupid one, YOUR TRAVEL AGENT IS!

    I hope you get whatever money back from the travel agency and then some…like a free full trip to Beijing to see the grandure in style.

    I’m so terribly sorry to hear that you were caught in the terrible terrible CF!

  6. KAN April 16, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    It’s easy for other people to call you stupid. They’re not suffering the consequences – you are. I think you’re taking the right attitude. Next time.

  7. tony thomas April 16, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Go back to travel agant and give him/her an earful. Lay it on thick.maybe get a free ticket to somewheres.

  8. M April 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    It wasn’t your fault at all. I love that picture, it says it all. :)

  9. Gloria Abaya (localrunnergirl) April 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    misery loves company don’t let those fools get to you…and yes….everything happens for a reason =)

  10. turkfontaine April 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    “stupid, stupid China.” – Stephanie Van der Kellen

  11. Fides Repunte April 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    Hello there Catherine Toth! May you have good health, prosperity, safety, and happiness in 2014, and in the years to come! You are like a celebrity of Hawaii. That’s good that you travel to different countries; show them that Hawaii is a great country to live in like any other country. Many good-looking people in Hawaii, and more good things are coming!

    Hawaii is now the it spot!

    Take care!

  12. M April 16, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Sorry but the ones who gave you flack on line I don’t think I would consider them friends.

  13. Misty April 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    It’s okay Cat, you’ll get another chance to tear it up in Beijing and we’ll all be eager to read about it and look at pics. :)

  14. Ty April 16, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    Not stupid, just perhaps needed a little more due diligence? but these things just happen.

    To be honest thats not the worst I have seen. I know people that have been allowed on the plane in situations similar to yours, they land, then get held in the airport for 8 hours, then they get the boot and have to fly back. Brutal.

    I almost got sent back home from Japan because I didn’t have a printed version of my itinerary. That took a lot of negotiation to sort out in order to avoid the long flight back home ahead of schedule!

    I also got temporarily booted from a JAL flight for being sick (minor common cold). I was forced to see the airport doctor, and they ended up holding up the plane on the tarmac for 30 minutes. In the end, after a total of 2 hours being shuttled back and forth by people that had no idea what they were doing, I got a personal security escort back to the plane and they had to put my bags back on- all because I had a sniffle. The entire time the JAL employees had no protocol and no idea what to do if someone had a sniffle and not full blown SARS. It was all guesswork. Brilliant!

    I later asked them “if I just point out someone to you, and say they are sick, but I don’t have evidence they are really sick, will you pull them off the plane and put them through what I just went through?”

    the JAL answer?: “Yes”.

    Expect the unexpected!

  15. Melissa April 16, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    I’m here and I wish you were, too! Some of us talked about it on the plane and as it turns out, it’s not just Hawaiian Air policy. Also that 72-hour layover is, indeed, a common occurrence, but not for people who are simply looking to travel to China for 67 hours and come back. I was standing in immigration and saw the sign for those 72-hour layover people and was like “Hey!” — I would have taken a pic but that’s not allowed.

    Also someone here noted that had they let you on the plane, you would have been detained at the airport til the flight from Beijing to Hawaii left tonight at midnight.

    Bummers, Cat. Every time I look at the room, I wish you were here.

  16. Bumper April 16, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    That’s a bummer. I’m extremely cautious when traveling internationally. I tend to double and triple check everything (and take photocopies of key documents), as there’s just too much on the line when it comes to misunderstanding a policy or being unprepared to meet some overseas requirement. Will I get stranded? Will I be subject to some fine? Will I be denied entry or boarding or have my passport confiscated? Who knows! I don’t think this is any one person’s fault or the result of stupidity, but at least it’s a good lesson learned for the future.

  17. Betty April 17, 2014 at 2:17 am #

    The Visa is allowed for 3 months. I planed to stay for 6 months so after 3 montns flew to Hong Kong and stay in very nice hotel which have Visa renewed at lobby level just paid them and give passpost and other information and they take care of all for you. They have done in a day.

  18. Dennis April 17, 2014 at 6:50 am #

    OMG! This was fate and maybe a sign from the almighty. Bejing will always be there. Bad travel agent! Go get him/ her!!!

  19. WildeOscar April 17, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    You got stuck in Hawaii; Melissa had to go without you; your feet didn’t get to swell to their airplane size en route; and China didn’t get to say hello or goodbye to you. Not great, but it could have been worse.

    I hope something ridiculously fortuitously spectacular happens while you’re at home that you would have missed if not for the agent’s misinformation.

  20. @burajiru April 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    As a frequent international traveler, I know that stuff happens. I’ve seen travelers crying in the international airport in São Paulo because they were denied transit to their next destination. It’s a small consolation, but it’s perhaps better to be stuck at home than in some random airport overseas. Despite the flack from folks, there are those who love you and don’t think any less of you. Hold onto that. Amiright, @parkrat? lol!

  21. hawaii2000 April 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    Cat, I think we’re all bummed–not only for you–but for ourselves too who enjoy living vicariously through your blog and photos. But there are too many worse things that can happen in life to be bummed about, right? Ignore the namecallers, chalk another one up to experience, and keep moving onward.

  22. Codi April 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Blaming the travel agent is an excuse, you should’ve got another opinion. You have access to the Internet, so it couldn’t have been hard to go a quick Google search. Calling you stupid may be harsh, but the truth hurts.

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